Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year everyone

Looking forward to meeting many of you next year :-) Really looking forward to that!

And ... tomorrow I get to use my new cupcake calendar.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


As a frequent vistor to my blog you are very welcome. Please, leave a wee comment to say hello? :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I had this wee idea

It is well documented that I am mad, and sometimes do mad things.

I sort of hinted of my latest mad idea to Judy a couple of months ago, and I would have provided a link back to that hint, but Judy has started a whole new blog since then and I can't access the old one. To be fair, I didn't give too much away at the time, but I did say that I had a little project I'd be working on in the new year.

As you know, my mother is a great reader of blogs, and one morning we were discussing Cosmo's blog when mum (who has just become eligible for her free bus and rail travel pass) suggested we should meet Cosmo for a coffee in Dublin some day. It turns out, this throw-away comment started some very dangerous thought processes in my head.

What a fantastic idea to go to Dublin for the day and meet Cosmo, but why stop there? I have been blogging for two and a half years now, and I 'meet' people online on nearly a daily basis that I have never met in the flesh. Always one to love a daft project, I decided it was time to change all that, and I set myself the task of meeting as many people who access my blog as possible in 2009.

Warning No. 1: Don't leave me alone with a computer on Boxing Day

See, that's exactly what happened yesterday, and by the time the other half came back from a demonstration rugby match I had managed to price a day trip to Stansted, London to see Judy, a round trip which included an Ulster rugby match at Newport (South Wales) via Bristol, which is near Nailsea and a cheap flight to Houston, Texas.

We were at mum's for dinner yesterday, and during the meal I was recounting my findings to everyone with enthusiasm. However, my findings seemed to be getting a rather lukewarm reception. Being me I persisted, and as we supped tea and coffee after the meal I got the laptop out and continued to search for even cheaper flights to Texas.

And then my poor husband could contain himself no longer and blurted it all out. You see, what some of you who read this blog knew, but I had absolutely no understanding of, is that behind the scenes, he had been secretly making contact with my fellow bloggers to arrange little 'meets' up and down the country. In fact, the first 'meet' had been arranged for the weekend of my up-and-coming birthday, in a little coffee shop in Dublin. Guess who?? :-)

A subsequent tea for two 'meet' had also been tentatively arranged for a venue in East London, and an initial contact had been made about the same trip which included an Ulster rugby match at Newport (South Wales) via Bristol, which is near Nailsea.

What is it they say ... great minds think alike ... or fools seldom differ??

And so it is that I have now booked a flight to Houston, Texas, which means that on that day of all Irish days I will once again be in the US of A celebrating the saint we know as Patrick with three blogging friends; Dana, Nancy and Kelly. And any other American readers of my blog who care to turn up and join in!

Some of you are now probably thinking that 2009 might be a good year to travel the world, or are wondering how you might gain access to the witness protection programme. Alternatively, let's 'meet' and put names to faces and faces to avatars.

Who all's in??

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Little Random Acts of Kindness

The Father Ted Christmas special was on last night. This I know because, knowing it to be a favourite of mine, my son left little notes stuck all around the house with the time and channel scribbled on them so I wouldn't miss it.

As it happens, I hadn't been feeling too good the night before that, hadn't been able to sleep too well and so last night I was knackered and went to bed pretty early. Without seeing the Father Ted Christmas special.

This morning, my son's waking question was 'did you watch Father Ted last night?' I explained that I hadn't, worried he might not take it too well considering his not insignificant notemaking efforts. He didn't actually say anything, but once I had made myself a cup of tea, he called me into the living room, announcing that he had got last nights Father Ted on the 'on demand' service for me and we should sit and watch it together.

Which we did, and it was just lovely, even though Dolly didn't really get it, and it lead to me having to try and explain what a Catholic was and what a Protestant was. Where is Steve Tilley when you need him? Later this afternoon, I started to prepare some (OK a lot of) vegetables for a little event thats coming up. After about five minutes my daughter arrived on the scene. Without so much as a word, she got herself a chefs hat, an apron, a kitchen chair so she could reach the sink and a peeler and stood for two hours, I kid you not - two whole hours peeling potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips.

Now if that's not two of the best Christmas presents a mum could ask for this Christmas, I don't know what is.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The real meaning of Christmas

As I am working round the house today I have some obsure cable music channel on TV playing Christmas music. The current programme is 'Christmas with the Stars', where stars pick their favourite Christmas song and explain why it's their favourite ... you get the general idea.

So there have been a lot of festive ditties and then we get to Lemar. Lemar has, we are told, chosen a very unconventional tune and the man himself appears on screen to explain that his choice is Silent Night.

Oh, I'm thinking, great! Let's hear why he has chosen this.

Well, Lemar explains he chose this song because it conjures up images of all the things Christmas is about: snow, reindeer flying in the sky at night and little choir boys freezing their nuts off in the cold.

I've since switched channels to the rugby.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

8 Things

My good blogging friend Nancy from Texas tagged me for this. It's more difficult than it looks, let me tell you, but here goes ....

8 TV shows I watch:

  1. Top Gear
  2. NCIS
  3. Strictly Come Dancing
  4. Father Ted
  5. Deal or No deal
  6. Desperate Housewives
  7. Come Dine with Me
  8. Extreme Makeover Home Edition

8 favourite restaurants:

  1. Bourbon
  2. Scalinis
  3. Niks Warehouse
  4. Metro
  5. Bushmills Inn
  6. Beatrice Kennedys
  7. Villa Italia
  8. Thai Village

8 things that happened to me today:

  1. I got kisses from my kids
  2. I had a past student come back to visit me
  3. I got a free ticket to an ice hockey game
  4. I got a really nice compliment from a colleague
  5. I received a Christmas card from someone I've not seen in years
  6. I had a phonecall offering me work
  7. I got a special cuddle from my son
  8. I was accosted by a man dressed up as a Subway sandwich

8 things I look forward to:

  1. taking my boots off!
  2. having all the family round for Christmas
  3. finishing work for the holidays tomorrow
  4. book circle and pudding club
  5. going to Paris with Dolly
  6. having my mortgage paid off
  7. Ulster rugby matches
  8. sleep

8 things I wish for:

  1. good health, happiness and sanity for my family
  2. all my Christmas shopping to be done
  3. a trip to the islands of the South Pacific
  4. troops to be brought home from Iraq and Afganistan
  5. a lifetimes supply of benefit makeup
  6. a landscaped garden
  7. a cure for cancer
  8. my mortgage to be paid off

8 people I tag:

  1. Dana
  2. Judy
  3. Kelly
  4. Jewel
  5. Wils
  6. Jessie
  7. Alice
  8. Cosmo

or anyone else who knows me and feels that way inclined :-)

Maple & Mustard Glazed Parsnips

  • 1lb peeled parsnips
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Preheat oven to 400 oC. Halve parsnips and place in roasting dish, sprinkle over oil stirring well to coat. Season and roast for 40-45 minutes or until parsnips are soft and golden. mix maple syrup and mustard and pour over parsnips for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Creamed Brussel Sprouts

  • 1/2 pint fresh double cream
  • 1 clove garlic, bruised
  • 2lb brussel sprouts
  • nutmeg
Boil the cream and garlic in a saucepan until the quantity is reduced by half, stirring to keep from burning. Keep warm. Boil the sprouts in salted water until tender. Drain and finely chop. Mix the cream with the sprouts and add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

An all American recipe from my good friend Rose in Boston, Mass. really for Thanksgiving, but adaptable :-)

  • 4 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 9 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup cider
  • 1 cup orange
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Preheat oven to 400 oF. Parboil peeled sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Arrange sweet potatoes in a greased casserole dish. Combine cider, orange juice, brown sugar and cinnamon in a pan and boil for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove cinnamon. Whisk in butter and pour over sweet potatoes. bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until heated through.
Yum yum!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas preparations

My christmas preparations are underway, and you can imagine my delight to discover a 'Countdown to Christmas' checklist.

It reads as follow: One week to go -
  • make cranberry sauce (done! I did that last week when cranberries were BOGOF at Tesco!)
  • decorate tree (done! Did that last weekend in time for Dolly's birthday)
  • ice and decorate cake (thankfully M&S sell them like that)
  • check thawing time for turkey (ahem, slight bone of contention there ... )

Not so happy to read back a bit though and discover -

  • make Christmas decorations (8 weeks to go!)
  • buy store cupboard essentials for the Christmas period, see list page 14 (5 weeks to go!)
  • begin to make your table decorations (4 weeks to go)
  • make wreath (3 weeks to go)

Ah well, we shall just have to struggle through the season without the pleasure of homemade decorations and table centres this year.

Oh, and in case you are concerned about having appropriate store cupboard essentials for over the Christmas holidays, the list on page 14 reads thus:

  • dried beans and lentils for soup
  • dried mushrooms
  • canned beans
  • canned tomatoes
  • hoi sin sauce
  • dried milk
  • soy sauce
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • selection of pastas
  • walnut oil

Does anyone feel an Ainsley Harriott 'Ready, Steady Cook' moment coming on?? No, me neither. Now, pass me the crepe paper 'til I start making paper chain decorations ....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Return of absent Bloggers

In recent days the junior bloggers Dolly, Michael and Gracie have all started posting again. Check out their new blogs, I hope they all manage to stick with it this time :-)

Oh, and Wils has also made a return to BlogLand, so it's just Pluto who remains in absentia!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nous allons à Paris

My daughter's surprise for her birthday was a trip to Paris in January with mum. She loves France and all things French, so it was the perfect surprise for her.

And, as my brother was very quick (too quick, truth to be told) to point out, the best presents to give are the ones you can actually enjoy yourself as well!

So I should point out now that the fact that we are going to be in Paris the weekend Ulster play Stade Francais (remember them??!) is a complete and utter non-coincidence :-)

Oh, and ever sacrificial, I'm more than happy to take orders for the calendar ...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Eight years ago today

I was nine months minus one day pregnant and hobbling round on crutches because I had fallen at work and 'probably broken that ankle, but we can't x-ray until after the baby is born.' Of course, once baby was born I never went back for the x-ray, and two years later was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the joint.

I was living with my mother because the extension to our house was not quite finished. Mind you, I spent the day putting a Christmas tree up, much to the merriment of the plasterers, plumbers, electricians, painters, industrial cleaners, furniture movers and Tesco delivery driver who at one point or another were all on site. The plan was to move from mothers to delivery ward and from maternity ward to home, and we managed it.

I opened mum's front door to find two Mormons standing there, and instead of giving them the brush off, entered into a full scale conversation with them. I even invited them back to finish the conversation 'in a couple of weeks after the baby arrives'. They've been turning up at mum's door looking for me ever since :-)

We decided it was time to start thinking of a name or two. You have nine whole months to do these things - why do they get left to the last 18 hours??

I had my last sleep before little Jill weighed in at 6lb 11oz, delivered by Caesarian section at 2.25pm on 13th December 2000. And here's the interesting bit for American friends: while I was having the surgery, Bill and Hil Clinton were just a mile down the road, having a cup of tea with Ian Paisley. Of course, they didn't pop in to visit us, oh no!

Happy Birthday for tomorrow Dolly Dill xx

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

False eyelashes and hairnets

I had to wear a hairnet to bed on Saturday night. The girl who did my Forties French roll hairstyle said it would help to keep it in shape for the concert on Sunday night. That and the 50 clips she used plus half a tin of hairspray.

Anyway, a hairnet looked pretty flimsy to me, so I put eight on, just to be sure.

I had help with the eyelashes; after nearly 30 minutes of struggling I called in the cavalry for assistance. The assistant stuck them half way up my eyelids, and I had to point out that I was going for the Forties look, not a part as an extra in the next Alien movie.

I think the fact that Dolly was shouting 'don't push so hard, you'll squeeze her eyeballs out' the whole time they were being applied maybe didn't help.

I guess I should really be grateful I didn't end up in casualty with my eyes glued permanently shut. Wearing the dress someone had pulled out of a skip. And eight hairnets. That would have been quite a look.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fun Monday

Mamalang has set the theme for this weeks Fun Monday and I have to list my three favourite carols. This is not an easy one as I love carols, and also because I sang in a choir for many years and so have lots of carols in my repertoire! But ...

My first and absolute favourite carol is Carol of the Bells (also known as the "Ukrainian Bell Carol"). I just love it with the whole bell sound thing going on. Love it, love it, love it!

Second come Away in a Manger simply because for me it is what Christmas is all about.

Third I'm going to say the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah because I got most satisfaction from having learnt it as a choir piece.

OK, can I sneak in a fourth? Immanuel by Michael Card.

The second part of the challenge was to a share a Christmas picture - mine is in the post below!


Christmas finally came to our house on Saturday. I say finally because I know some of the readers of this blog have had their decorations up for, like, forever! (Judy)

And truthfully, this is very early for us to have the house decorated. Dolly likes the tree up for her birthday, so we usually put it up the weekend before that, but as her birthday is next weekend, this year we have to put the tree up a whole week in advance.

I was at the hairdressers yesterday afternoon getting forties-fied for SingSwing tonight, and when I came home a posse which included my mum and aunt had been busily decorating the house which meant all that was left for me to do was to mull some wine :-)

My brother and his family called in and we all had tea together and more mulled wine. Great start to the Christmas season.

You may have noticed no mention of my son in this fable. That's because my dad took him on a trip of a lifetime over to see Manchester United play Sunderland at old Trafford. Well, it's his idea of a trip of a lifetime anyway ;-)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Furry feline fiend, opps friend

My mother is in Poland visiting the Christmas Markets of Krakow. That's why the visitor stats are down on everyones blogs this week. We sent her, along with my father, for his 70th birthday.

They left their cat behind, in our charge. We have cat-sat before, it's easy (I can say that because I manage to avoid doing most of it). This time however, it is proving a little more difficult.

Because ... I have lost the keys to my mother's house and so, with temperatures at 5 degrees below, I have had to bring the cat into my house. And we have no 'stuff' for a cat - you know, like bed or mat or bowl or food even. Or litter.

So the brainy one in the family puts a bathmat, that's right folks, a bathmat on the floor in the living room and then tells the cat to lie on it and go to sleep. I know this to be true because I could hear it happening. I can also imagine the sly look cat gave human at this instruction.

So when we came down early (very early) (far too early) next morning to let the cat out because we have no litter, it's no surprise to see cat curled up in a nice cosy wee ball, tucked into the corner of the sofa, at the very far end of the room from the bathmat. Grinning at us I swear.

The cat lodged with me once before. It was a planned visit and I was left the 'stuff'. Cat took up residence in the conservatory for his short visit. I remember it well but not lovingly, because on that occasion, I forgot cat was living in the conservatory, walked into the room in the pitch dark, placed foot on very edge of litter tray and projected the whole bloody lot round me and the conservatory.